Boiling Point remains a divergence point for open-world first person shooters

Long before the Far Cry series started messing around with RPG systems, Boiling Point was an open-world, first-person shooter that played with RPG and faction-based gameplay. It’s back now, with a new lease of life from Ziggurat Interactive.

Firstly, I want to say… what the hell? Boiling Point first came out about 18 years ago, that’s a long time.

It’s aged poorly in more than one way, but most notably in the way that games that gun for realism over stlye do — where you end up feeling like you’re looking at some alien version of humans. In this case, it’s mostly forgiveable, although the FMV-intro and its warped characters really do anchor it in the early 2000’s. Luckily, as a game, it’s much much more than its bizarre intro.

I will add, before we get to the game, that Boiling Point always seemed to set itself out as a kind of 80s-era action movie. Arnold Vosloo (best known at the time as the baddie from The Mummy, or Darkman… in Darkman) lends his voice and face to a gruff ex-foreign legion who arrives in the fictional country of Realia, to try and track down his kidnapped daughter. After kicking off the game with some classic ‘I thought when my daughter said she was going to be a journalist, she’d be writing about hair or nails’ guff, it becomes pretty clear that he’s a kind of ‘threaten, then shoot, then ask questions’ kind of chap — and that is definitely how you’ll spend a substantial part of your time with it. That and driving, and doing fetch quests.

The open-world RPG wasn’t a tried and tested thing at the time. Boiling Point did a great job. It took a 625 km2 map, dropped a couple of towns, a few dozen outposts, a fistful of scribbling roads and a sprinkling of other locations, and filled it up. It also put an incredible number of snakes and leopards in the woods — more than enough to wipe out your car if you weren’t paying attention. Boiling Point’s charm wasn’t in its world though, or in its RPG system… or in the fact you could get addicted to healing syringes making them less effective, or how you could heal while under fire by eating a doughnut. No, its charm was in the factions system.

The ultimate open-world fuel: hatred

Most people in Realia hate somebody else, and this is entirely based on the faction that they belong to. The government? Well, they hate the Guerillas and the Mafia. The Civilians? They’re not too hot on the drug dealers hanging around outside the town. This continues, with each of the six factions starting out pretty unhappy with somebody else, and with your tinkering they soon start reflecting that onto you. All of a sudden you can’t pass through government checkpoints without being shot at, or you’ll pass through a gunfight between two factions and one will suddenly realise who you are and add you to their list of problems.

Those crossfire situations are a highlight, one of quite a few, and while they’re a little trickier near the start of your time as Saul Myers, in the later stages you’ll be rolling around in a reinforced car, with a stacked inventory and probably a fair-few handy tools in the back of the car. That’s another highlight right there; you can dump extra guns and, well, whatever you gather, into the boot of your car to transport it about. Wipe out a military base for the mafia and not got enough hands to carry the two-dozen assault rifles you’ve found yourself in possession of? Dump them in the boot of the car. It means that, like any good mercenary-style, open-world game money is no longer an object as soon as you’ve got hording, selling and being-careful all figured out.

For me there was nothing quite as action-movie adjacent as flicking open the boot of your car in the middle of a firefight, then fishing out a rocket launcher and popping a helicopter out of the sky. While the whole, “gathering guns from the fallen so you can flog them to a black-market dealer who sits under a petrol station” thing isn’t quite as cinematic; the missions give some fantastic, memorable set-pieces.

The negatives, though, come in Boiling Point’s complicated-to-read systems, its clunky objectives system, the lack of enemy-indicators and — critically — the fact that if you wipe out your car (or somebody does it for you) then there’s no quick-fix to getting back to civilization. You can spend half an hour having to trek back, fighting off goons and wildlife all because a few too many stray shots clipped your car, or you parked it in a tree. That’s not ideal.

The reason for an overhaul: Boiling Point’s performance

Boiling Point runs pretty stable these days. When it first launched the gaming industry was at an odd place, Far Cry was out, and the Crytek team had already flogged it off to Ubisoft and signed up to work on the Crysis series with EA. Crysis was a turning point for games, and a notorious PC-crasher. Lots of games had bugs and errors, and post-launch patches were common, but nothing fully bricked PCs.

Boiling Point suffered from a lot of the same issues that we still see in open-world games, confused NPCs, holes between objects and poor resource use resulting in CPU spikes, frame-rate drops and more. Over time the old game started running better, but only because the computers playing it were getting better. That said, I was still getting a lot of crashes on the old, compatibility-mode-running version that I’d float back to every couple of years, and I’ve not had a single crash with Ziggurat Interactive’s reissuing of it.

Boiling Point

That’s not to say that everything is hunky-dory. In fact, some modern conveniences like borderless window mode are not added in; it’s just very much the version of Boiling Point (stability-wise) that should have launched all those years back.

As such, this is a great opportunity for people who used to play games all that time ago, who maybe missed Boiling Point, to return and give it a go… however, if you’ve not got those rose-tinted glasses to hand then you’re going to get the bad along with the good. This has, however, fully convinced me that Boiling Point needs a remaster and that there’s almost certainly an audience out there for a new, modern entry in the series — an entry with everything amped up and all the mod-cons: stealth, fast-travel and a decent weapon modding system.

You can grab Boiling Point: Road to Hell on Steam

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